“We are running out of space,” the director of the hospital, Dr. Frank Baning, told CNN at a facility based in the northern part of the Greater Accra region of Ghana.
Since the coronavirus pandemic has stopped large-scale public gatherings, relatives have chosen to keep the bodies of their loved ones in the morgue for longer than usual until they can hold a proper burial.
“It’s been difficult because there aren’t many other mortuaries around to hold corpses,” Baning said.
‘Only if we are forced’
Ghana burials usually last several days and up to a week in some parts. They are a symbolic ceremony involving thousands of mourners to celebrate the life of the deceased.
So it was a bitter pill to swallow for many, when the country’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, imposed a ban on large gatherings.
He offered an alternative: do a private funeral with no more than 25 guests.
Chris Awuyah, a Ghanaian professor based in the United States, lost his uncle in Ghana due to natural causes in February.
“More than 2,000 people are expected to be present at his funeral,” he told CNN. All that changed when government restrictions prevented funerals from happening according to plan.
“Most of the funerals are about uniting families. That is important to us,” said Awuyah, whose 87-year-old uncle, Jonas Awuyah, is considered the head of the family.
“We hope we can hold the right burial for him.”
He acknowledged that his family had not yet reached a definitive conclusion about whether to bury his uncle personally or postpone the burial to a later date. But he hinted that he was willing to wait as long as possible until the right burial could be planned.
“The only way we will survive [the funeral] personally is if our hands are tied and we are forced. We are afraid we must make this decision. “
Risk for health workers
Meanwhile, in Pantang, some have expressed concern that the number of corpses in their morgue has created congestion, which poses health risks to workers serving on the front lines.
Awuku told CNN that the hospital had taken all the right measurements to ensure the safety of its workers “and would take care of the body we already have as a tribute to the family.”
This is part of the reason why the Abstinence Hospital works with families to store corpses for as long as possible, Awuku said.
The Ghana Health Service did not immediately respond to requests for comment and the country’s health minister declined to comment when contacted by CNN.
At Gillman and the Abbey Funeral Service located in Accra, they also saw an increase in the number of corpses stored in their morgue.
Storing bodies there is subject to a daily rate, but fewer families arrange to have the bodies moved.
Administrator Lawrence Apaloo said the pandemic was “truly negative for business.”
“Of course, the longer the body is here, the higher the bill,” he said. “But it is unpredictable to know when the family will come to take the body.”
Other services provided by Gillman and Abbey, such as pall pads, hearse rental, casket sales and site decoration, have stopped completely, he said.
“Everyone is arrested and no one knows when everything will return to normal. This has taken a big toll.”